Navigating the next phase: From AI excitement to risk management – insights from Davos 2024

The global elites gathered for the World Economic Forum this week, there were two inescapable words on the windows: artificial intelligence(AI).

The World Economic Forum (WEF) unfolded in Davos, artificial intelligence (AI) continued to dominate discussions, but the focus shifted towards addressing the risks associated with AI. The excitement over AI in 2023 has transitioned into a more measured approach in 2024, with stakeholders aiming to explore how the world can benefit from AI while managing its potential risks.

Major technology companies, including Google, Meta, and Microsoft, had a strong presence at the WEF, with senior executives participating in panels and engaging in discussions with global business and political leaders. The surge in interest in AI was heightened by the rapid developments seen in technology, exemplified by the emergence of ChatGPT in late 2022, a chatbot capable of generating expressive content and passing exams in various domains.

The growing awareness of AI’s impact on society led to increased discussions about regulations to safeguard individuals from potential dangers while fostering innovation. Countries and regions, including China, the European Union, and the United States, have introduced or are working on legislation related to AI.

At the WEF, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres highlighted the exhaustive discussions on AI and climate issues. However, there remains a lack of an effective global strategy to address these challenges. China’s Premier Li Qiang called for global cooperation on AI governance, and U.N. Secretary-General Guterres mentioned that President Xi Jinping expressed a desire for the U.N. to play a central role in AI governance efforts.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) contributed to the cautious tone by publishing a report revealing that AI is expected to impact nearly 40% of jobs globally, with the advanced world witnessing around 60% job transformation.

The U.N. established a panel on AI, and its draft report, released in December, proposed five guiding principles for AI, emphasizing inclusivity. Microsoft President Brad Smith expressed optimism about global collaboration on AI and noted that the WEF provided an opportunity for conversations among diverse stakeholders.

The challenges and potential of AI are not limited to advanced economies, and discussions also touched upon the implications for the Global South. The EU presented its comprehensive AI regulation, the “AI Act,” as a solution to managing AI risks.

As billions of people prepare to participate in elections worldwide, concerns about AI’s impact on these democratic processes were discussed at Davos. EU official Vera Jourova emphasized the importance of preparing for election-related challenges posed by AI.

Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT, acknowledged concerns about AI’s influence on elections and expressed his company’s commitment to addressing the issue responsibly. Overall, the discussions at Davos underscored the evolving narrative around AI, with a greater emphasis on responsible deployment and risk mitigation.